By Abdulrahman Kadiri
Urban and regional planners have, on many occasions, underscored the need for the adoption of good town-planning procedures while developing sustainable cities.
They argue that the production of master plans for the cities will engender structured neighbourhood development patterns, while preventing disasters via the implementation of strategic risk management plans.
In the case of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the planners insist that efficient control, administration and management of the physical development of the territory would facilitate the successful implementation of the Abuja Master Plan.
Available records indicate that the Federal Government approved a master plan, which was designed by the International Planning Associates, for the FCT in 1979.
Construction works started in the early 1980s and the seat of the government was relocated from Lagos to Abuja in 1991.
With the influx of people from various parts of the country and the world at large into the city in recent times, analysts underscore the need to adhere to Abuja’s master plan at all costs.
They note that the sustained influx of people into Abuja and the attendant increase in the territory’s population have somewhat overstretched its existing facilities.
However, certified town planners insist that general infrastructural development of the FCT has been strikingly lopsided.
They argue that the pace of infrastructural development in the FCT satellite towns is very slow, compared to that of Abuja city centre, which has experienced appreciable development.
Some residents also note that apart from the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), other area councils in the FCT such as Abaji, Bwari, Kuje, Gwagwalada and Kwali lack good facilities.
As part of efforts to maintain Abuja’s master plan, the Abuja Municipal Management Agency (AMMA) was created in 2005, and the agency was later renamed Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC) in 2007 and given more power.
The council is saddled with the responsibility of guiding, directing and controlling the physical development of the FCT, with the main aim of preserving the city’s master plan.
Also, the agency is expected to give permits for all forms of physical development in the FCT, while providing specific guidelines for the development of individual and public property.
However, the failure of most residents to abide by regulations of AMMC on the city’s management has resulted in frequent sanctions, mostly in form of demolition of structures that have not been approved.These sanctions have, nonetheless, generated controversies between the development control department of AMMC and some FCT residents.
In spite of the residents’ complaints about the council’s activities, the Federal Government has repeatedly warned that it would never condone any attempt to distort the city’s master plan.
For instance, President Goodluck Jonathan stressed, while inaugurating the Board of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) in Abuja recently, noted that the reliability of Abuja’s master plan must be maintained at all times.
The president, who was represented by Sen. Pius Anyim, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, pledged his administration’s commitment to developing Abuja and welcomed new initiatives to accelerate the city’s transformation.
“There are two things of equal importance that must be uppermost in your minds: First, the Federal Government will not condone any abuse of the master plan; second, there must be transparency in your operations,’’ he said.
In the same vein, FCT minister, Sen. Bala Mohammed, had recently warned the administration would not compromise the aesthetic beauty of Abuja, stressing that the city remained the window through which the world saw Nigeria.
“I must warn all those who deface the environment of our beautiful city and abuse the Abuja master plan that the FCTA will take adequate and necessary steps to enforce discipline in these areas,’’ he added.
Besides, the National Assembly recently initiated a move to prevent the abuse of the city’s master plan, insisting that efforts should be made to shift the attention of real estate developers to the FCT suburbs so as to ensure even physical planning and development in the territory.
The Senate unanimously voted in support of a bill to create an agency that is specifically charged with the development of the satellite towns.
Sen. Smart Adeyemi, the Chairman, Senate Committee on FCT, who sponsored the bill, said that the development of the new towns would provide employment, boost food security, while expanding the people’s access to satellite towns.
“The responsibilities of the Satellite Town Development Agency include opening up and developing satellite towns by providing good infrastructure for the teeming rural dwellers, thereby improving their living standards,’’ he said.
However, the Coordinator of AMMC,Mr. Reuben Okoya, said that proper maintenance and management of infrastructural facilities in the FCT required effective collaboration of AMMC with similar agencies that were responsible for city management at local and international levels.
Furthermore, the Director of Development Control in AMMC, MalamYahaya Yusuf, said that one of the challenges facing the council was the failure of some residents to comply with stipulated property development guidelines.
He stressed that if the residents cooperated with the council, there would be minimal complaints about demolition or removal of structures.
All in all, observers underscore the need to preserve the master plan of Abuja, insisting that tangible efforts should be made to free an emerging cosmopolitan city like Abuja from avoidable urban planning problems. (NAN)